Thousands of visitors find their way to the Sacred Valley in Peru each year, most headed straight toward the ruins of Machu Picchu. Yet at over 60 miles long, the valley is so much more than an ancient monument on a hillside. Volunteering in Peru in the Sacred Valley is a fantastic opportunity to go beyond the tourist mindset and learn about life in this rural area, all while providing service to the community. Whether you’re helping students learn English or training local health advocates, working with volunteer programs in Peru in the Sacred Valley is an experience you won’t soon forget.
How to Volunteer in the Sacred Valley
Choosing to volunteer abroad in Peru within the Sacred Valley is a great way to combine sightseeing with service. Not only will you get to explore this history-rich, verdant region, but you’ll also become better acquainted with the locals who call it home. Volunteering here won’t be your typical tourist experience, and you’ll return home with a better understanding of the area’s magnificent beauty as well as its challenges.
Popular causes and program types in the Sacred Valley. No matter what your interests are, there’s a volunteer programs in Peru that’s right up your valley. Many programs offer the opportunity to get involved with education projects, whether you’re teaching English classes or assisting with after-school activities. Other programs focus on the environment and projects include trail maintenance, animal monitoring, and reforestation efforts. Some organizations provide an eco-tourism opportunity, allowing volunteers to live with a local family, learn Spanish or Quechua, and assist the family with daily duties such as farming.
Summer and short-term programs. If you only have a week or two but still want to give back, a short-term volunteer program is a great chance to learn more about life in the Sacred Valley (and perhaps throw in some sightseeing too!). Some volunteering in Peru tasks, like construction or conservation projects, lend themselves better to short timelines; it’s easier for a new volunteer to pick up where you left off and continue the work.
Long-term programs. While a short-term volunteer stint can be beneficial, if you really want to maximize your impact, your mantra should be, “the longer, the better.” Longer term volunteer programs in Peru of three months or more allow you to make personal connections (which is especially important when working with children), improve your fluency in Spanish, and become comfortable and efficient in the tasks required of you.
Life in Sacred Valley
Though parts of the Sacred Valley are always bustling with tourists, it’s not hard to find a quiet corner in one of the small towns dotting the valley floor. Life slows down in the evening, and you can spend your time exploring nearby Incan ruins (they’re everywhere!) or enjoying an Inca Kola with your fellow volunteers. As long as you’re willing to put down your phone and connect to those around you, it won’t take long to fall into the daily rhythm of village life.
The price of volunteer programs in Peru will vary. Some programs ask only for a small donation to cover lodging costs, while others cost a couple hundred dollars a week and include activities such as sightseeing and language lessons. Lodging is generally included in most placement fees, but you should make sure to bring extra money for some meals and personal expenses.
Due to its rural location, don’t expect luxury in your accommodations. Most volunteers will stay with host families or in a guest house with other volunteers. You’ll likely share a room, and keep in mind that things like hot water, electricity, and the internet aren’t always guaranteed.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
The Sacred Valley is a high-altitude destination in the Andes mountain range, and many of its towns sit at 8,000 feet or higher. Unless you were born in the mountains, it’s likely that you’ll feel the effects of elevation while volunteering in Peru. This can include feeling like you’re short of breath, nauseous, or dizzy, especially when participating in sports or hiking uphill. To counter the effects, be sure to drink plenty of water, take it slow the first couple of days as you acclimate, and search out local remedies (usually involving coca leaves). The sun is also more powerful at higher elevations, so don’t forget your hat and sunscreen either!
Another thing that will make your volunteer experience more enjoyable is to learn some Spanish before you arrive. The more you know, the easier you’ll be able to communicate, and even just knowing the basics will exponentially improve your time in Peru. From asking for directions to chatting with your host brother, you’ll have an easier time with a bit of español under your belt. That said, many locals speak Quechua, so you’ll be learning a new language on arrival no matter how much preparation you’ve done.
The Sacred Valley isn’t only towering mountains, misty ruins, and llamas grazing on hillsides.The green, winding valley is also home to generations of people who understand its history, beauty, and hardships. Volunteering in Peru within the Sacred Valley is an opportunity to learn about the region’s culture directly from its residents, so that when you return home, you depart with a better understanding of all the facets that make up this special place.
For more information on volunteering in Peru, read our comprehensive guide!